Nearly four months after medical workers and nursing home residents began getting immunized against COVID-19, mail sorters, carriers and their colleagues are still not yet eligible forshots across much of the U.S.
Given their work on the frontlines of a deadly pandemic, the nearly half a million Americans employed by the U.S. Postal Service had reason to believe they’d be among those prioritized for getting vaccinated against the coronavirus. With more than 100 active postal workers having died from COVID-19 and tens of thousands having been infected by the diseases, the American Postal Workers Union has for months pushed for its members to be recognized as essential workers in the national vaccine rollout.
“Many essential workers are still waiting for their vaccines even as they report to work every day, including postal workers, who have continued to interact with the public and connect the people of the country during the pandemic,” the labor group stated in late January.
The viewpoint was prefaced a month earlier in nonbinding guidance to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, ACIP, on December 20, 2020, advised that frontline workers and those 75 and older be next up for vaccinations, after health care workers and long-term care residents.
ACIP’s proposal prioritized about 30 million essential workers, including firefighters, police officers, teachers, school staff, public transit, grocery and prison workers, for shots, as well as those working in food, agriculture, manufacturing and for the U.S. Postal Service.
States, however, have opted to write their own scripts, with postal workers left toward the back of the line in many regions. A tally by the New York Times found that most states haven’t prioritized vaccinations for postal workers. By the newspaper’s reckoning, just 22 states are currently making the shots available for mail workers.
For instance, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont lin late February ditched plans to next offer vaccinations to those with medical conditions and “essential” workers, instead going with an age-based bar, which as of Friday will be lowered to 45 and older.
Arizona’s Maricopa County in recent days began making shots available to postal and transit workers. “I am a window clerk with customers in a building all day, eight hours a day. I am doing it for myself and family members and be able to see my grandkids,” one postal worker told a local CBS affiliate.
Postal workers in Colorado will be eligible for the vaccine beginning on March 19. The state is also opening up shots for many others, including residents 50 and older, faith leaders, journalists, those in higher education, public transportation, food and restaurant workers, and people with underlying medical conditions.
The Postal Service made clear that it had little reason to believe a national plan for its workers would materialize quickly, with the agency encouraging employees to sign up for state and local alerts about vaccine eligibility.
The USPS “continues to work toward a standardized priority opportunity for our employees who choose to get the COVID-19 vaccine,” a spokesperson said in an email. While trying to develop a nationwide distribution plan for postal workers, the agency is urging workers to “schedule a COVID-19 vaccination at the first opportunity available to them.”
Headed by Postmaster General, the beleaguered government agency struggle to on time ahead of the November presidential election, which had many Americans turning to mail-in balloting due to the ongoing pandemic.